Struggling Town give Burley sack

GEORGE Burley was told he was being sacked by Ipswich Town yesterday evening.The sacking came 48 hours after the club's worst display of the season – the 3-0 defeat at Grimsby – and a series of disappointing results.

By Paul Geater

GEORGE Burley was told he was being sacked by Ipswich Town yesterday evening.

The sacking came 48 hours after the club's worst display of the season – the 3-0 defeat at Grimsby – and a series of disappointing results.

First team coach Tony Mowbray will be in charge for the crucial match with fellow-strugglers Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow.

But the indications from Portman Road today were that a successor to Burley has already been identified by the board – and that they have talked to him.

As soon as he knew he was being sacked, Burley was in touch with the League Managers' Association boss John Barnwell.

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"I talked with George Burley last night," he said. "He has spent most of his professional life at Ipswich Town and needed to talk to us."

Burley is believed to have been offered a £1 million compensation package after losing his job – a substantial sum for a club in dire financial straits.

While the sacking was not a shock, given the poor start to a season which was approached with such optimism, the timing is a surprise coming just 24 hours before a crucial match.

Rumours about Burley's departure started circulating last night.

Initial reports suggested that they were wide of the mark, but the news was confirmed by the club at 10.30 this morning.

Burley has been at Ipswich two months short of eight years – he arrived at Christmas 1994 with the club staring relegation from the Premiership in the face.

He could not stop the drop, but he soon steadied the ship in the first division – Ipswich only just missed making the play-off places in 1995-96.

The following year it did make the play-offs, losing in the semi-finals.

That set a pattern that was to be repeated in 1997 and 1998.

In 2000, however, the club made it into the final of the play-offs, beating Barnsley in the last competitive club match at Wembley.

The first season back in the Premiership saw Ipswich confound the critics as the team qualified for the UEFA cup for the first time in 19 years.

Last year great things were expected as the squad was strengthened – but everything soon fell apart.

A disastrous losing spell – the club didn't win a league match between August and December – saw it plunge into the relegation zone.

And despite a mid-season rally, another losing spell later saw the club relegated in May.

Ipswich hung on to most of its top players – just Titus Bramble and Marcus Stewart left the club while Matteo Sereni is on loan in Italy – and confidence was high that the team would bounce straight back.

But despite a dream start to the season – including a 6-1 thrashing of Leicester City – the club's league form plummeted.

Losing to crisis club Bradford City sounded the alarm bells – and further loses to Stoke and Derby turned up the heat.

Wins in Yugoslavia and against Wimbledon indicated that the corner had been turned.

But Tuesday's loss at Blundell Park was a devastating blow to the club – and led to today's announcement.

The sacking came too late to be reflected in the programme for tomorrow's match.

In his notes Burley says: "The fans have been great. They've kept behind me and the team. It's been a difficult time, but they have been absolutely fantastic and we are determined to keep working to get it right."

David Sheepshanks' notes reflected the disappointment at the Grimsby match and, significantly, have no message of support for the management team.

"We must all hope for a much-improved performance today, as the home fans most certainly deserve one!" he wrote.

Now the fans will hope that a new management team is soon in place to lead the team forward.

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